Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
135. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her views on the data collection by schools on preferred travel modes in collaboration with other stakeholders such as local authorities in order that modal shift towards active travel and school transport can be monitored and tracked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23831/22]
School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 121,400 children, including over 15,500 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €289m in 2021.
As the Deputy is aware, the Department commenced a review of the School Transport Scheme in February 2021. The review is being conducted with a view to examining the current scheme and how it currently operates, its broader effectiveness and sustainability and that it adequately supports the provision of services to students and their families.
The review encompasses the School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs and the Primary and Post-Primary School Transport Schemes in terms of how each element of the schemes currently operate, to include eligibility criteria, trends, costs and cost drivers, and overall effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the schemes.
The review will consider issues such as climate action, supporting rural development and promoting where possible initiatives that encourage walking and cycling to school.
The review will also examine the potential for integration of different strands of the scheme and a more co-ordinated approach with other Government Departments that also use transport services.
Wider considerations relating to operation of the scheme are now taking place in the second phase of the review. As part of this phase of the review, the Department has conducted an extensive stakeholder engagement process. The Department is analysing the views of all relevant stakeholders so that they may be considered as part of the assessment and in informing policy on the future operation of the scheme. The Steering Group will continue to report to me on an interim basis as the review progresses.